Gov. Tim Walz's decision Tuesday, Feb. 12, to renew an appeal of the Line 3 oil pipeline by former Gov. Mark Dayton's Department of Commerce prompted responses from local legislators.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a certificate of need, and a contentious routing permit on a 3-2 vote in June.
Among a reported 76 legislators who co-signed a letter to Walz in support of the Line 3 pipeline project ahead of Walz's decision were Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin; Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore; Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset; and Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa.
"Our new governor can do the right thing and make a clean break from our previous governor's last-minute attempt to sabotage the unanimous decision by the PUC approving replacement of this aging pipeline," Lueck said in a news release before Walz's decision. "The original court appeal was filed in the very last days of Gov. Mark Dayton's administration. Today, the decision to continue using the courts to obstruct carrying out this badly needed project rests with Gov. Walz."
"The PUC has spent over 3 ½ years reviewing Line 3," Poston said in a news release. "I urge Governor Walz to trust their expertise and let this project move forward without any more roadblocks or unnecessary delays."
"This project will bring jobs, environmental protection and tremendous property tax revenue to communities across northern Minnesota," Heintzeman said in a news release. "Minnesotans are tired of waiting; let's stop the legal games and let this project proceed."
Legislators also responded after Walz announced his decision.
"I am disappointed to learn of the governor's decision to continue state-backed legal challenges and further delay this project," Layman said in a news release. "Pipelines are the safest, most environmentally sound way to transport oil, and the governor should trust the experts who have signed off on this pipeline and let construction move forward. Through the property tax revenue and the countless good-paying jobs it will provide, this pipeline represents a tremendous economic impact to northern Minnesotan communities. I will continue to stand with these communities and support this important project."
"Earlier today, Gov. Walz sided with environmentalists and put thousands of Minnesotans in danger by refusing to allow this desperately needed pipeline replacement project to proceed," Poston said in a news release. "This project has already undergone a rigorous permitting process and gained unanimous approval by the Public Utilities Commission. The time for additional delays and games is over, let's get this done."
Lueck said in a news release: "I am deeply disappointed Gov. Walz has decided to sabotage the legitimate process of permitting the replace of aging Line 3. A detailed Environmental Impact Statement has been completed, years of public hearings were conducted and ultimately the PUC spoke unanimously approving the project. It's time to get on with replacing this pipeline."
Lueck said it has been almost a month since he, along with a bipartisan group of 13 other House members from northern Minnesota, wrote a letter to the governor Jan. 15 requesting a meeting to discuss this issue. Lueck said he has personally followed up with Walz's office both by phone and email after that initial correspondence. His requests went unfulfilled.
Dayton's Minnesota Department of Commerce appealed the PUC decision Dec. 21, alleging Enbridge Energy didn't properly introduce and evaluate long-range oil demand and therefore didn't meet state law requirements.
The current Line 3 was built in the 1960s and crosses northern Minnesota. Owner Enbridge Energy began proposal for a replacement three years ago following a utility corridor with high voltage power lines through the lakes area, crossing between Pine River and Backus and passing north of the Whitefish Chain.
While a certificate of need wasn't without opposition, the route permit failed to garner the support of the state department of commerce, 94 percent of written public comments submitted during a public comment period and the PUC's Administrative Law Judge Ann O'Reilly who supported the pipeline replacement, but not the Enbridge proposed route.
Opponents also suggest the economic benefits of the replacement are inaccurate, suggesting the 8,600 jobs created for the construction of the pipeline would only lead to 20 permanent positions, the property taxes from the pipeline would not offset the risks to the environment and the oil is being shipped out of Minnesota. Though Enbridge has insurance to pay for spills, opponents are also not confident in spill clean up.
The public comment period has been extended to Feb. 21.